How will businesses capitalize on the consumerization of healthcare?
While mHealth and wellness applications may appear to be interchangeable concepts, there are key differences in how they affect the life of the user as well as the business success of their providers. If your doctor advises you to begin a walking regimen for better health, you might choose to track your steps with a device to keep track of your progress. If the device and applications keep the data siloed with the individual, it would be considered a wellness product (e.g. activity trackers such as a FitBit or Jawbone. or diet apps like Lose It).
If the collected data was transmitted to your doctor directly or added to your medical record, it would be considered amobile health (mHealth) product. mHealth apps may help individuals track fitness, but the extra step of transmission to a third party like your life partner, children or Health Care Provider (HCP) is a critical differentiator and a potential marker for long-term viability of the product.
The widening gap between “wellness” (self-directed actions aimed at preventing illness) and “mHealth” (technology-based applications that allow a patient and a HCP to clinically interact from different locations) is dramatically impacting how startups, investors, healthcare professionals, and patients approach the joining of health and technology.
mHealth vs. Wellness: Transitioning Towards a Full View of Patient Health
Most wearables and wellness apps will only reach profitability when they are seen as a must have to control one’s health alongside a medical professional. Although the figure of 70% of Americans that tracked at least one health indicator in 2013 may statistically seduce an investor or entrepreneur into the wearables craze, wearable self-improvement devices are still subject to a continuous innovation cycle.
Despite the low cost of acquisition and high engagement, these devices and apps suffer from low retention. A reported 42% of people stop using fitness trackers after 6 months. In order to keep the momentum going, wellness products need to successfully transition to mHealth by integrating health data with a third party and or an EHR/physician. This will lead to a much higher retention rate and provide access to a market expected to grow to $59B by 2020. Biofeedback correlated with health data, such as medication adherence, wearables and all Internet of Things (IoT) health products, will be the only way to make the data useable.
By transitioning to an mHealth approach, the wearables and wellness markets will also have a new definition of success. “At the highest aspirational level, the goal is to improve the health and wellbeing of the public, but other measures of success depend on who you are in the health ecosystem,” said Scott Amyx founder and CEO of Amyx+, a leading wearable strategy agency. “Success KPIs will differ depending whether they are patients, hospitals, healthcare providers, ancillary medical services, home care, ACOs, government, regulatory bodies, technology and service providers or IT infrastructure and hardware firms. Unfortunately, not all parties in the ecosystem are aligned on delivering affordable, high-quality care for the masses. Profit maximization is holding back healthcare reform and innovation, to an extent.”
One advantage of the ubiquity of wearables and wellness apps is the way it can support mHealth product penetration. Wearables like FitBit and Jawbone, accompanied by Bluetooth-connected apps, have flooded the consumer market, satisfying the demands of a growing segment of “Quantified Selfers”. The fact that millions of people independently buy, download, and track their steps and sleep suggest that this cultural movement emerged from a convergence of our narcissism, a desire to improve our health, and technological innovation.
From Apple’s HealthKit, which integrates with dozens of wellness apps, to Google’s Fit and Samsung’s S Health ecosystems, an increasing number of platforms have created new B2B2C marketing channels for future innovations. Yet, the question remains: do wellness apps that you personally monitor change your unhealthy behaviors? The downside of wellness solutions: if you control the data, it means you can hide it from the people monitoring your health and remove external accountability. That is why having mHealth solutions that fit within healthcare workflows is so vital to their long-term success.
Originally published on Geektime. Published on August 27, 2015. Author Josh Cline.